Manager in the weeds

Effective managers know one thing, spending time in the weeds (aka – being too “hands-on”) is counter-productive and can sabotage their ability to lead and provide direction. A manager who spends too much time in the weeds by deciding to do tasks normally reserved for direct reports or other resources essentially abandons their core responsibility – the one of planning and managing resources.

Some might argue that managers that get their “hands dirty” are team players, and therefore gain the respect from their teams, but in the long run these managers risk becoming ineffective and losing the respect from their teams and peers.  The problem is simple, when a manager gets pulled into the weeds it is usually an indication that resources have been improperly utilized or planning has been inadequate. A manager that is constantly in the weeds essentially is failing to realize and/or ineffectively dealing with a greater problem that needs to be addressed.  Not addressing the resourcing and planning problems will not only lead the manager to spend more time in the weeds, but will also impact the teams credibility and trust in the manager – as it becomes more evident that the manager is unable to manage.

Planning and resource allocation are the two main reasons organizations need managers. If they are not managing they are not doing their job!

However, there are times when getting in the weeds is either inevitable or tactically required. From the tactical standpoint, a manager getting in the weeds can send a strong message to others that they failed to satisfactorily execute a task.  Done correctly it can increase performance and prevent future recurrences.

On the “inevitable” front, this is what I like to call a warning flag. Good managers that are pushed into the weeds because of circumstances out of their control are doomed. These circumstances could be due to financial constraints which do not allow organizations to properly engage and allocate resources, or worse, crisis situations where directors and VPs take hands-on management roles, thus becoming the de-facto managers and pushing local managers into the weeds.

Managers who find themselves in such situations need to quickly assess if proper decisions are being made at higher hierarchical levels. A no to this assessment probably merits ‘refreshing the resume’.

The Utopian view of managers is that they never go in the weeds. The reality is that good managers will occasionally venture there to support and coach their resources as well as occasionally filling the gaps while new resources are engaged.